If you have ever lost someone that you love you know how easy it is for the calendar to have a death grip on your heart. Without knowing it, you remember dates that are of import. I say without knowing it because this is so often the case. You may not be paying attention, not even devoting conscious thought to the calendar. Intellectually, your brain thinks you’ve got it all figured out. Spiritually, you are more often than not going to be the recipient of a smashing blow to your solar plexus when you least expect it. Your mind knows, your heart knows, your soul and your spirit know.
My father died suddenly eleven days after the 9.11. attacks. Being employed in the air travel industry at the time, 9.11. had quite an impact on my workload. I stopped caring on 9.22. My father’s death cheated 9.11. out of the importance many people feel it deserves as a date. I don’t care. I care about 9.22. I care that my parents were enjoying a night out of dinner and dancing among friends and that they managed to have a couple of dances together before my father dropped dead. Knowing that they were together and doing what they loved to do has managed to cheat even 9.22. out of filling me with despair. I know it’s not the same for my mother, but for me, it is just another day. We were having friends over for dinner and my parents were out for dinner. I remember word for word, image for image, hour for hour what transpired that night but it’s okay because I also remember my dad as he always was: easy-going, tight-fisted, funny, hardworking and caring; even as I had spoken to him on the phone that night. 22.September often arrives and passes without any dread even though my brother SkinnyGuy and I do remember it as the day Daddy died.
My brother BlueEyes died on the 29.December, 1993. I wrote a little obit blurb for a local paper that said: I cannot say how much I love you; I cannot say how much I miss you. There are no words big enough.
For many years December sent me into a tailspin. I had no interest in Advent, no interest in Christmas, no interest in New Years’ celebrations. Sometimes it all came to a head on the 29th, sometimes the entire month sucked the life out of me. I hated 29.December, I didn’t want to do anything but sit nursing a scotch and drying my tears. Even 10 or 15 years after the fact, when I thought I had a handle on it, I didn’t. I managed to get back into a Christmas-y type of feeling .. I had kids around that needed presents and Christmas dinners that needed eating and Christmas parties that needed attending. I thought it was all good. And then BAM! comes that crushing blow to the solar plexus. You don’t know up from down, you don’t know if you want to throw up or just lay under the bed for a while. 29. December was in control. I was not. This went on for seventeen years.
2010 was different. I had read somewhere, and I’m sorry that I can no longer recall where it was, that we too often give dates on the calendar too much power over our lives. They are after all, just numbers on a page. We allow them to dictate our feelings and memories. We need to realise that they are really just another day. Somewhere in the back of my intellectual brain that thought germinated and sent the daintiest tentacles of roots into my mind. When December came along in 2010 I was still a mess but those roots were taking hold and sending runners out to my heart, my soul and my spirit. I didn’t actually know it, but they were spreading like an invasive species. A dear friend wanted to make things easier for me and suggested that we spend the 29.December in a pub looking at photographs and telling stories. Her insistence and perseverance, combined with the now well-rooted ideas on dates and days that had invaded my being (unbeknownst to me), changed the game for me. It wasn’t an easy night, there were a lot of tears and fair amounts of inconsolability. It was a long night. However, the last two days of December 2010 were actually bright. I felt a lightness that I hadn’t experienced in years. I went to a New Year’s eve party and had a great time. 2011 came in all shiny and, well, new.
The year 2011 was good. Oh don’t get me wrong, there were still ups and downs, there was still grief and sadness, and there’s nothing wrong with that. What there wasn’t was this overwhelming darkness that seeks to settle in during the month of December like a ginormous storm cloud. 29.December 2011 was much easier. Due to familial constraints my friend and I didn’t get out to our pub last year but we’ve had other days to share memories and laughter. Understanding and believing that the date on the calendar is just another day has made a huge difference. It is a day for remembrances, yes, but not of the horrible last days or hours or minutes. It is a day for remembrances and memories of BlueEyes’ brilliant smile and laugh-creased eyes and long, thin, piano-playing fingers; of a coffee table made of beer kegs, a suitcase and a mirror; of candles in the shape of jet planes. It is a day for lightness of heart, singing of soul and soaring of spirit.
I have another friend who, along with her siblings, will be having a sad weekend. Deborah Bryan, known to many as The Monster in Your Closet, lost her mom two years ago. She has posted on this subject a few times. We have talked a bit about letting go of the date and taking back the day; using it for better purposes; loosening the death grip of a number on a page. Intellectually, she gets it. Spiritually and soulfully it is taking its toll. Even while she’s not living with “an eye to the calendar” it does indeed have her in its grasp. I want to help her; if not lessen her pain at least help her to ride it out as the years pass until the lightness can find its way back into her “mensis horribilis” which is the horrible month of March. I love you, Deb, and I will not let you fall without being there to catch you or at least offering a softer place to land.